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Bank of America bomb robbery forces hundreds to evacuate

September 5, 2012 | 11:33 am

Several hundred people were evacuated Wednesday morning in the area surrounding an East Los Angeles Bank of America as the sheriff’s bomb squad detonated an apparent explosive device that had been strapped to a bank manager.

Robert Lopez said he was at the unemployment office for an appointment a block and half from the bank when they announced around 9:30 a.m. it was being evacuated and about 100 people had to leave.

“There is a bomb. There is a bomb, we’ve got to get out,” he said they were told as they were evacuated to a CVS Pharmacy parking lot.

Authorities said two bank robbers fled with cash after they kidnapped a manager at the bank from her home in Huntington Park on Tuesday night, held her overnight, then forced her to help them rob the bank. They allegedly strapped what appeared to be a pipe bomb to her body.

Several blocks surrounding the bank were evacuated, officials said, for safety purposes.

The bank manager entered the bank, where other employees were present, took the money and told her colleagues what was happening. She followed instructions to throw the money out the bank's doors, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said.

The sheriff's arson and explosives team arrived at the bank and removed the device from her safely, then detonated it in the street, Parker said.

Helicopter TV cameras showed the woman exiting the bank unharmed. Parker said authorities are searching for two suspects who fled in a white car.


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— Richard Winton and Sam Quinones in East Los Angeles

Photo: The sheriff's arson and explosives team robot detonated an explosive in the street in front of the bank. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times